What you need to know about the Northern pole of Vietnam (part 1)
Most of the people when traveling share the feeling of both curiosity and fear at the same time: curious about the unknowns and fearful also of the unknowns. Nowhere is out of reach and impossible to conquer, even as to the end of a country as the mighty Northern pole of Vietnam.
If you are still wondering how it feels like traveling to the pole, follow us on one of Vietnam travel packages to the Northern Pole.
1. Where exactly is the Northern end of Vietnam?
There is a fact that all people or the majority of them when mentioning of the Northern end of Vietnam will bear the same answer: Lũng Cú Flag Tower (Cột Cờ Lũng Cú). According to some historical documentaries stored around the 80s, this flag tower owning the height of 1.470 meters above the sea level was first built under Lý Dynasty ruled by the great emperor Lý Thường Kiệt.
Ha Giang Province with the Road of Happiness
The fun fact is that at its very first stage of construction, the pole was actually formed of wood, more specifically “sa mộc” wood or also known as cunninghamia in scientific callings. The tower after that had gone through numerous restorations, the first one was under French colonization in 1887 and the rest took place in 1992 and 2000 respectively. However, the most significant and complete restoration actually occurred in 2002, when the tower was officially constructed and refurbished with Đông Sơn Bronze Drum’s patterns on the foot and put on a 54-meter-square national flag at the top, which represents the total of 54 tribes inhabiting the country.
The beautiful Lung Cu Flag Tower
Until present, Lũng Cú is widely perceived as the Northern endpoint of the country bearing important historical, economic and geographical meanings to Vietnam. Located in the Dragon Mouth of Lũng Cú Commune in Hà Giang Province, the flagpole seems to be worthwhile of visiting amongst the top destinations must-go in Vietnam as the knot of China-Vietnam borderline. From 2010, also the latest restoration of Lũng Cú, the way to the tower has been of easy access with around 800 stairs built from the ground to the foot of the pole. This is also known as the only way to get to the tower.
The actual Northern pole of Vietnam
Lũng Cú Flag Tower will definitely be a “save point” in your journey conquering the Northern end of Vietnam. Nevertheless, if you take a closer look at the Vietnamese map, you will see that the Northern pole is actually located a few more kilometers further to the North, in the center of Nho Quế River according to some old documentaries of Vietnamese Coastguard Headquarters. Until this moment, very few people have actually set foot to this place or have even known about it for their journey goes no further than Lũng Cú Flag Tower. And besides, this is still a very hard and dangerous trip to take.
2. How to get there?
If you have been familiar with traveling to Vietnam, you will find quite many ways to travel from Hanoi using the bus, coach, train or even the motorbike. Should you have the intention of conquering the Northern pole of Vietnam, you will first have to make your way to Hà Giang Province, where Lũng Cú Flag Tower is located. Hà Giang is 300 kilometers far from Hanoi and a usual coach trip will take around 8 – 9 hours.
The Road of Happiness (Highway 4C) from flycam’s view
If you tend to book a tour to Hà Giang then you will not have to worry too much about how to get here because you will mostly travel by 36 or 45-seat coach. Currently, there is no train from Hanoi to Hà Giang. In case you are considering about getting to the place on your own with a view to trekking the Northern pole, these are a few ways that you can take a look:
The famous Mount Ma Pi Leng
The first route can be traveled by motorbike, car or coach. First, you should ride to Láng – Hòa Lạc Street then go to Thăng Long Boulevard. Take Highway 21 direction to Sơn Tây and go to Trung Hà Bridge from there. From Trung Hà, travel to Cổ Tiết and Phong Châu Bridge. After that, take the 32 Route until you get to Phú Thọ Province, turn left to Highway 2, then Highway 2C of Tuyên Quang Province. After reaching Tuyên Quang City, take the Highway 2 and you will be in Hà Giang Province in no time. This route only takes you 7 hours for the whole journey from Hanoi to Hà Giang City, 1 – 2 hours faster compared to the second one below.
The second route is only used for coach and car travel. From Hanoi, go to Thăng Long Bridge. Follow the Highway ĐCT05 direction to Highway 2B. Until you reach the intersection between Highway 2B and Nội Bài – Lào Cai Highway, turn around and keep traveling on the 2B direction in order to get to Highway 2C (area of Tuyên Quang Province). As soon as you reach Tuyên Quang City, take Highway 2 as when you travel by motorbike and you will arrive at Hà Giang Province in a short time.
Travel Ha Giang route by car
In case you cannot drive by yourself, the coach is definitely the best option. Most coaches depart at Mỹ Đình Station so you can get there by car or taxi by yourself. Here we would like to suggest a few creditable coaches and coach operators for you to look through. We would also like to draw your attention to this important note that most of these coaches will take you straight to Hà Giang City.
Hưng Thành Coach
- From Mỹ Đình Station: 8:30 - 10:05 - 10:15 - 14:30 - 19:30
- From Gia Lâm Station: 9:00 – 19:00
- From Lương Yên Station: 9:00 – 20:30
Tel: (+84) 988 87 741
Hải Vân Coach
- Departs at 21:00
- Tel: (+84) 944 92 323
- From Mỹ Đình Station: 7:30 – 9:30 – 21:00
- Tel: (+84) 946 445 369 – (+84) 983 823 780
Limousine Ngọc Cường
- Departs at 7:00 – 11:00 – 13:00 – 16:00 – 20:00 – 21:00
- Tel: (+84) 904 366 279 – (+84) 936 788 279
Khanh Hằng Coach
- From Mỹ Đình and Nước Ngầm Stations: 17:00 – 20:00
- Tel: (+84) 985 605 656
Notes: If you want to drive to Hà Giang by yourself, you should take the first route because it will shorten the trip’s distance to approximately 30 kilometers. In addition, the route is quite desolated so you can enjoy your trip and shink in the beauty of the North-western forever lush greenery.
3. Motorbike rental services
Your main vehicle in Hà Giang will be motorbike so in case you need some information, below is a list of motorbike operators suggested. There is something you should not forget is your driving license. Also, remember to ask for a helmet or two if you intend to drive.
Annually, Hà Giang also holds a great Triangle Flower Festival in November so you can drive around the province to check it out. To most people, the feeling of standing in the infinitive fields of triangle flowers are unspoken.
The indescribable beauty of pink triangle flowers
- Address: Local group 18, Nguyen Trai Ward, Ha Giang City, Ha Giang Province
- Tel: (+84) 941 719 955 – (+84) 988 470 863
- Address: 15B Pham Hong Thai Street, Minh Khai Ward, Ha Giang City, Ha Giang Province
- Tel: (+84) 123 639 9888
Motorbikes & Tours
- Address: 1 Nguyen Trai Street, Ha Giang City, Ha Giang Province
- Tel: (+84) 944 686 366 – (+84) 219 650 3333 - (+84) 963 761 515
Pink House Motel
- Address: Local group 1, Cau Me Hamlet, Phuong Thien Commune, Ha Giang City, Ha Giang Province
- Tel: (+84) 912 451 438 – (+84) 169 958 6666
4. Where to stay?
When it comes to Hà Giang, maybe “vibrant” is not the exact kind of word. In exchange, it is probably always talked-about, not only for the beauties but also many other wonders that you may find of its offering. Speaking of wonders, this trip to the Northern pole of the country will crack your mind with lots of amazement only for you to realize that Hà Giang is a true legacy of nature.
If you have always assumed that only in Sapa do you get the best kind of homestays or mountain-view hotels, then think again because Hà Giang will definitely blow your mind away!
Auberge de Meovac
Auberge de Meovac, sounds quite French, right? Actually, this is also known as Chúng Pủa in H’Mong’s language, which means “by the stream”. Auberge lies silently in a small lane at the heart of Mèo Vạc Town. No commercials, no online marketing or using any kinds of social media to promote its image, Auberge de Meovac is still one of the most well-known locations to backpackers.
The peaceful yard of Auberge
The current homestay was actually restored from the old house-base of H’Mong people which has been existing for more than 100 years. The design is signified in H’Mong’s patterns and textures of the yin-yang roofing, cunninghamia house poles with the foot bears the design of opium poppy flowers and soil-made walls.
The house is a wonderful combination of both modern and traditional styles harmonizing perfectly in a sole design. Auberge has a total of 3 single rooms, 2 double rooms and a dorm room enough for 14 people. If you are someone who loves a little bit of tranquility and are seeking for an escape away from the crowd, Auberge is just the place.
- Price: 230.000 – 300.000vnd/night
- Address: Meo Vac Town, Ha Giang Province
- Tel: (+84) 167 351 4399
Bearing many similarities as Auberge de Meovac, Dao Lodge is a very special homestay that does not only own a great reputation but also holds a strong impression in the special-created design harmonizing both the oldie and newness. Dao Lodge is actually a work of art by the renowned architect Hoàng Thúc Hào and his partner who brought the house a golden reward of Eco-architecture 2015 – 2016, one year after the house was officially established.
The special design of Dao Lodge
Dao Lodge signifies in Dao’s culture and tradition. This is especially expressed in each small corner and detail of the house from the soil-made walls, glasses and curvy roofing – a symbol of swift – a very special kind of birds in Dao’s culture. The house has 5 bedrooms in total with convenient exterior balcony and beautiful view giving you the best comfort you can get while staying.
A beautiful corner of Dao Lodge
- Price: 250.000 – 300.000vnd/night
- Address: Nam Dam Hamlet, Quan Ba Suburban District, Ha Giang Province
- Tel: (+84) 97 571 9605
Homestay Hạ Thành
Located about 6 kilometers from the center of Hà Giang City, Homestay Hạ Thành is an extreme destination to drop by. If Auberge signifies in H’Mong’s culture and Dao Lodge gives the impression of Dao’s tradition, Hạ Thành is a place bring up the sensation of a strong Tày’s culture from the design to the location where the house is set.
Ha Thanh lies amongst the lush greenery of fields
The special thing about Hạ Thành Homestay is that most houses in the town own a fish pond with stream water running through all around the year. This gives Hạ Thành a really special feature that no homestay has. Coming to Hạ Thành, you will mostly spend the nights in a dorm room with the house owner because there is barely any private room.
Dorm room of Ha Thanh
What makes you easily fall in love with Hạ Thành at the very first time seeing is the spectacular view from the balcony to the infinitive fields of the evergreen grain. Most visitors coming here all enjoy a special coffee moment sitting on the rooftop, having some coffee and capturing all beauties of Tày in the eyes.
- Price: 400.000 – 450.000vnd/night
- Address: Ha Thanh Hamlet, Phuong Do, Ha Giang Province
- Tel: 1800 3230
BỤI Homestay Đồng Văn
If there is a word to describe this place, “bụi” – kind of a rolling-stone style, will definitely be it! Maybe it looks this way but it is not actually like that. On the outward, you see BỤI as a normal wooden house bearing resemblance to a true traditional ethnic house, but on the inside, you will find everything that you need from free wifi, mini restaurant, cable TV set and even computers!
The outstanding BUI
BỤI is a very popular place, especially to the youngsters who find a special rhythm of something vintage and dusty around the place. BỤI offers an eco-friendly kind of feeling in every step. What people like about BỤI is its positive and youthful spirit filling up the room with a fantastic dorm and a brilliant mini restaurant with mountain-view.
Beautiful dorm room of BUI
BỤI seems to break every personal rule that you set for yourself and brings people together. What you will find very interesting at BỤI is something like these special signs
- Price: From 130.000vnd/night (breakfast and a drink included)
- Address: Dong Van Town, Ha Giang Province
- Tel: (+84) 98 890 690 – (+84) 122 567 5122
Contrast to all homestays above, Kiki’s House located in Hà Giang City is definitely the place if you love all the vibrant and energetic moments in the city. It seems that simplicity and minimalism are applied to Kiki. Despite the whole texture is young and colorful, the design expresses plainly and simply creating a friendly and comfortable space for any guests staying around.
The front of Kiki’s House
Kiki provides you with all convenience from free wifi to coffee service. In addition, Kiki has an ideal location which is in Hà Giang City so it will be easier for you travel around, especially when you travel by coach from Hanoi going straight to Hà Giang City.
A simple room at Kiki
- Price: 200.000 – 500.000vnd/night
- Address: 134B Ly Tu Trong Street, Ha Giang City, Ha Giang Province
- Tel: (+84) 988 903 990
If you are not a fan of homestay and wish to find a cozy place to stay the night in Hà Giang, these are a few high-quality hotels that you can check out.
Ha Giang Backpackers Hostel
Ranking #1 on booking.com amongst the best hotels in Ha Giang, the Backpackers Hostel is in favor of many foreign travelers to Ha Giang City. Ha Giang Backpackers Hostel is a friendly accommodation to stay and especially, the hostel allows pets so if you have any, just bring them along.
Hagiang Backpackers Hostel
The hostel also offers motorbike, bike and car rental services in case you want to travel around the city. Furthermore, you can enjoy numerous of exciting activities in the hostel such as billiards and cycling. There is only dorm room type in the hostel offering sleeping space for women and men separately and shared room for both.
Public bar and lounge
- Price: From 100.000vnd/night
- Website: https://www.booking.com/hotel/vn/ha-giang-backpackers-hostel.en.html
- Address: 1 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Minh Khai District, Ha Giang City, Ha Giang Province
Royal Hotel Ha Giang
Royal is a 3-star hotel in the center of Hà Giang City. The ideal location gives you easy access to many other destinations, services as well as entertainments in the city. The hotel has everything you may need from free wifi, free parking lot to many other conveniences.
A spacious room of Royal Hotel
- Price: From 450.000vnd/night
- Website: https://www.booking.com/hotel/vn/royal-ha-giang.en.html
- Address: 89-91 Le Quy Don Street, Ha Giang City, Ha Giang Province
Tam Giac Mach Hotel
Named after the symbolic triangle flowers of Hà Giang, Tam Giác Mạch is a considerably suitable place to stay if you are seeking a beautiful mountain or city view. The hotel varies in different conveniences and services to meet the need of all guests from free wifi, private parking, soundproof room and 24-hour front desk. A big drawback of Tam Giác Mạch is that pets are not allowed.
- Price: From 300.000vnd/night
- Website: https://www.booking.com/hotel/vn/tam-giac-mach.en.html
- Address: 228 Ly Tu Trong Street, Tran Phu Ward, Ha Giang City, Ha Giang Province
Ong Vang Hotel
Ong Vang (Wasp) Hotel is a very special-designed accommodation situated in Ha Giang City. Actually, this kind of design inspired by the beehive gives us the recall of Tubotel in Sapa which bears the same designing concept.
The interesting design of Ong Vang
Despite the limitedness of space in each room, it still provides you with enough conveniences and is fully equipped with proper amenities such as private bathroom, small single beds, and personal care equipment. The hotel is also friendly to pets and small kids with a backyard for sunbathing, the playground, garden view, river view and so on.
- Price: From 230.000vnd/night
- Website: https://www.booking.com/hotel/vn/ong-vang-ha-giang-.en.html
- Address: Nguyen Trai Ward, Ha Giang City, Ha Giang Province
5. What to eat?
Welcome to the land of brilliant delicacies in Vietnam! In Hà Giang, you will easily find yourself being surrounded by all kinds of strange dishes filled with excitement and explosive flavors. Coming to Hà Giang, not only will you be overwhelmed by the exclusive variety in Hà Giang cuisine but also the eagerness to taste all these special dishes.
Egg Fermented Rice Sheet (Bánh Cuốn Trứng)
Filled with the specific trait of the strong mountainous flavoring, the egg fermented rice sheet is a great dish combining perfectly the light taste of the rice sheet at the tip of the tongue with the sugar-sweet sensation given from the bouillon.
The mouth-watering egg fermented rice sheet
For Hà Giang is a mountainous area, the weather around the year is quite cool and sometimes cold. This time of the year, people will tend to find something hot or even spicy to eat in order to cope with the freezing coldness of winter. Nevertheless, the egg fermented rice sheet seems to hold something elegant, light and sweet in flavor and can be served as a great dessert in the area.
The thin rice sheet will be carefully made and wrapped around the juicy soft-boiled eggs then dipped into the special-made sauce. The dish is usually served in the morning in Hà Giang City, Đồng Văn Old Street and markets around the city.
Five-color Sticky Rice (Xôi Ngũ Sắc)
Five-color sticky rice is actually not a strange dish to most Vietnamese in other provinces of the country. However, you will often see this dish served in the mountainous areas more than the city because people only eat this on special occasions.
Five-color sticky rice
The five-color sticky rice looks like a simple dish to make, but the secret is that there is no food coloring used in the process of cooking. All five colors are totally made from natural ingredients, mostly fruits and vegetables harvested from the fields and in the forests such as red melon, ginger leaves, pomelo skin and black rice leaves. A normal dish of five-color sticky rice will include the five colors of white, yellow, green, orange and black.
Thắng Cố Đồng Văn
Đồng Văn’s Thắng Cố bears much resemblance to Thắng Cố in Sapa from the ingredients to the flavor. Thắng Cố is a unique dish that you can only find in the Northern mountainous areas such as Sapa, Lào Cai or Hà Giang. The dish is the skillful combination of seasoning technique with numerous spices from cardamon, chili, and pepper to different kinds of meat such as horse meat, pork, and beef.
A big pan of Thang Co Dong Van
Thắng Cố is always served from big to small gatherings with mountainous tube wine as a specific drink. Hà Giang locals, especially men will absolutely enjoy the moment of gathering around with their mates, talking about this and that while enjoying Thắng Cố along with sips of delicious wine. Speaking of wine, corn wine is the perfect along-side served with Thắng Cố in every party. The sweet flavor of the corn wine is told to bring up the special taste of Thắng Cố.
Ấu Tẩu Gruel (Cháo Ấu Tẩu)
There is a dish that once you have come to Hà Giang and tasted it, you will hardly forget its flavor. Actually, we have mentioned about this dish before, it is a kind of bitter gruel cooked from the bitter leaves in Hà Giang. To cook this dish is not an easy mission. In order to have a delicious and rightly-seasoned bowl of Ấu Tẩu, the rice must be retained overnight and soak another 4 hours.
The unforgettable Au Tau Gruel
Besides the main ingredients, there are also chopped pork, pig toe, fennels, and caltrops. Ấu Tẩu is also regarded as a great cure for a cold. If you want to enjoy this special dish, you will have to wait until the evening because only at that time is the dish served.
Maybe there is no proper English word to describe the name of this dish except for “mèn mén” itself. To speak about this dish Mèn Mén, maybe we can call it steamed corn rice though it may not look like a “normal” rice dish in Vietnam. In order to make a dish of Mèn Mén, the cook must spend a great amount of time and effort from harvesting the corns, dry them, grind them and steam them in a special pot twice after stir-fried them after the first steaming.
Triangle Flower Cake (Bánh Tam Giác Mạch)
Triangle Flower Cake is indeed the specialty of only Hà Giang. The cake is made from the mixture of flour and grinded triangle flower seeds after the harvesting season every year in the province.
The triangle flower seeds
Although it is not easy to make a triangle flower cake, the price for the final product just ranges from 10.000 – 15.000vnd. The cake is a great dish to try at the place or a perfect gift delivering the soul of Hà Giang to your friends and family.
Grilled Moss (Rêu Nướng)
We bet that most of you have never tried dishes made from moss before. The grilled moss is a specific dish emphasizing the fantastic cuisine culture of Tày. For Tày people, dishes from moss are very rare because they must collect the most from the sea and the season only comes once in a year. Moss dish is not only nutritious but also very uniquely-tasted. There can be many methods of cooking such as drying and frying but Tày people still recommend grilled moss with flavorous seasonings.
Grilled moss in Ha Giang
6. Specialties to bring home
Going to Hà Giang, you will have a variety of choice in special gifts to bring home and Hà Giang’s specialties are definitely not a bad choice.
Hà Giang’s Corn Wine
Hà Giang’s Corn Wine is a non-missing drink in all parties of the locals. The wine is specially served alongside with Thắng Cố to create the specific Hà Giang’s taste of cuisine that you will never forget. The corn wine is absolutely light and sweet, and also very good for health. You can get it from most markets in Hà Giang Province.
Corn wine is usually packed in bottles
Mèo Vạc’s Mint Honey
Mint Honey is a specialty of Mèo Vạc ethnic in Hà Giang. The mint honey is totally natural-made from high-quality honey and mint oil from the mint flowers collected in the forests. When tasting, you will feel the lightly sweet flavor of honey mixed in the refreshing cool taste of mint.
Quản Bạ’s Non-seed Persimmon
If your friends love sweet fruits with no seed, Quản Bạ’s non-seed persimmon will be a great choice. Quản Bạ’s persimmon has been owning a great reputation for a very long time. There is also like a tradition in Quản Bạ that people grow persimmon for a living and they actually earn very well from this activity. Some persimmon trees in Quản Bạ even ages for more than 300 years. Quản Bạ’s non-seed persimmon makes its name for many factors such as the scrumptious sweet taste and the crispy fruit meat.
The delicious persimmon in season
Fìn Hò’s Snow Shan Tea
Snow Shan Tea is specially made from the 200-year-old Snow Shan leaves from the height of over 1.300 meters. This gives Fìn Hò’s tea an unforgettable taste as well as a great sensation when you get to taste such precious gift offered by nature.